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Jill Clayburgh (April 30, 1944 – November 5, 2010) was an American actress well known for her work on theatre, television and cinema. She won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1978 film An Unmarried Woman. She would receive a second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for the 1979 film Starting Over as well as four Golden Globe nominations for her film performances.
Clayburgh made her Broadway debut in 1968 and starred in the original Broadway productions of the musicals The Rothschilds (1970) and Pippin (1972), and would return in 1984 for the revival of the play Design for Living. On television she appeared in episodes of Medical Center, Maude, and The Rockford Files until she finally starred in the 1975 TV movie Hustling, which earned Jill her first of two Emmy Award nominations and catapulted her to stardom. She would receive a second Emmy nomination for her 2004 guest role in the drama series Nip/Tuck. She next starred in the drama series Dirty Sexy Money (2007–09). Her film roles included Gable and Lombard (1976), Silver Streak (1976), Semi-Tough (1977), La Luna (1979), First Monday in October (1981), Shy People (1987), Fools Rush In (1997), Running With Scissors (2006) and Bridesmaids (2011).
Clayburgh was born in New York City, the daughter of Julia Louise (née Dorr; 1910–1975), an actress and theatrical production secretary for producer David Merrick, and Albert Henry "Bill" Clayburgh, a manufacturing executive. Her paternal grandmother was concert and opera singer Alma Lachenbruch Clayburgh.
Clayburgh's mother was Protestant and her father came from a wealthy Jewish family. She was raised on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where she attended the Brearley School. She then attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she decided that she wanted to be an actress.
Clayburgh joined the Charles Street Repertory Theater in Boston. She made her Broadway debut in 1968 in The Sudden and Accidental Re-Education of Horse Johnson, and starred in a 1969 off-Broadway production of the Henry Bloomstein play Calling in Crazy, at the Andy Warhol owned Fortune theatre. She went on to appear in numerous Broadway productions in the 1970s and 1980s, including the musicals The Rothschilds in 1972 and Pippin in 1975. Clayburgh made her screen debut in The Wedding Party, filmed in 1963 but not released until six years later, and gained attention with roles such as the love interest of Gene Wilder's character in the 1976 comedy-mystery Silver Streak, co-starring Richard Pryor. She also starred in the critically acclaimed romantic drama Griffin and Phoenix, opposite Peter Falk.
The first of her two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress was for 1978's An Unmarried Woman, for which she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival (tied with Isabelle Huppert), while the second was for 1979's Starting Over, a comedy with Burt Reynolds. She also received strong notices for a dramatic performance in I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can.
Her other films include Portnoy's Complaint, Gable and Lombard (in which she portrayed screen legend Carole Lombard), as a pro football team owner's daughter in Semi-Tough, as a mathematician in It's My Turn (in which she teaches the proof of the snake lemma), as a conservative Supreme Court justice in First Monday in October and in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial La Luna, which presents an incestuous relationship and was poorly received at the time.
Television audiences know Clayburgh from numerous roles in series and movies including Search For Tomorrow, Law & Order, The Practice and as Ally McBeal's mother. She received Emmy Award nominations for her work in the made-for-television movie Hustling in 1975 and for guest appearances in the series Nip/Tuck in 2005.
In 2006, she appeared on Broadway in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park with Patrick Wilson and Amanda Peet; she played Peet's mother, a role originated by Mildred Natwick. She also returned to the screen as a therapist's eccentric wife in the all-star ensemble dramedy Running With Scissors, an autobiographical tale of teenage angst and dysfunction based on the book by Augusten Burroughs. During 2007, Clayburgh appeared in the ABC television series Dirty Sexy Money, playing Letitia Darling.
Clayburgh had chronic lymphocytic leukemia for more than 20 years and dealt with it privately before dying from the disease at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut, on November 5, 2010. The movie Love & Other Drugs was dedicated to her memory. The 2011 film Bridesmaids was Clayburgh's final film appearance.
In 2012, friend and fellow actor Frank Langella wrote about their friendship (which spanned more than forty years) in a chapter of his book "Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them". Her close friend and playwright Richard Greenberg wrote about her last days in a chapter of his book "Rules for Others to Live By: Comments and Self-Contradictions" released in 2016.
Clayburgh married screenwriter and playwright David Rabe in 1979. They had one son, Michael Rabe, and one daughter, actress Lily Rabe. Prior to this, she had dated actor Al Pacino for five years (and briefly appeared with him in a November 1968 N.Y.P.D. episode, "Deadly Circle of Violence").